Q & A on How to Defeat the Computer

1. Is the most aggressive play the best? No. Being over-aggressive will cost you many games. You can't be passive either of course. Each move has a necessary counter-move.

2. Is there only one way to win a game? No. You may have more than one opportunity to capitalize on your opponent's mistakes.

3. Don't computers play a perfect game? Obviously not. If they did it would be impossible for me to win 48 times in a relatively small space of time against the high level of Stockfish that chess.com level 10 uses, SF8. Have also beaten the analyzer SF10 a few times.

4. What can be learned from studying computer games? You can get a feeling for why the computer loses. Each subsequent game is then easier to win. I can now win about every other game playing white when I concentrate. Of course, I allow myself to take back moves, but even so it is not easy. I hope to get to the point where it is not necessary to take back moves, or too many, but people are not as good at calculating as a computer.

Have won 13 games playing lichess SF8 without takebacks. Don't need to take back any more on chess.com 10.

5. Why is it better to play the computer rather than a person? Because there is less ego involved. Also the computer is better, so you will learn more. You improve only by playing opponents who do not make tactical mistakes. People always make tactical mistakes.

6. What kinds of mistakes can a computer make that allow you to win? They do not make tactical mistakes, only strategic ones. So you have to convert a strategic advantage into the proper tactics, which the computer knows as well. It will tell you if you are winning or losing tactically, but not strategically. If you do not have at least a .7 advantage by move 15, you might as well start over or else play out the draw.

7. Can't a computer always win by being better at calculating. Obviously not. If both sides play perfectly, the game will be a draw. In order to win, you have to make a less than perfect move. But one or two sub-optimal moves early in the game is not enough to lose. The computer will attack more to take advantage of your inaccuracy. This creates an imbalance that you can take advantage of. Games are won or lost early on, by move 15. Know your advantage. If no big advantage, just play for a draw.

8. If you play a perfect game, why won't you win? If you play a perfect game, you will only draw. You have to take a risk and goad the computer to attack more than it should. This can be combined with a better strategy to win the game. So far, people are still better at strategy. In reality, the computer will play perfect if you do. Its play is a reflection of your own, unless you make a big mistake of course. Then you lose. If the computer sticks to book moves you have an advantage because you know what it wants to do.

9. What is chess strategy? For example, you have to think about what pawns are left and which are better positioned after all the major pieces are traded off and the King becomes the most important attacking piece. When the King is useful for attack rather than hiding, this is the end game. You either have a won, lost, or drawn end game. If the advantage score goes to zero, forget it, it is a drawn game. Start another game.

10. Are there other elements of strategy? Playing chess is more like calculus, finding the slope of a curve as you move long it. You have to stay on the slope. If you wander off by wild moves, you will soon lose. You negatives will increase rapidly. But this does not mean you will win, just not lose. To win you have to think about an advantageous end game and how to get there. For example, You would like to block your opponent's King but open up some pawns to allow yours to attack. You would also do better to have 2 or 3 pawns together and have them more advanced on the board. You can win the game even if your score is slightly negative for much of it, preferably less than half a point. If you are 2 points down, you can probably only get a draw. The SF computer likes to trade pawns all over the board. Resist doing this.

11. Have chess engines improved human play? Yes, very much so. Grandmaster matches quite often end in draws now, unless it is speed chess. Both pretty much play perfect games so if neither side is willing to take a serious risk, the game will almost always end in a draw now.

12. Are human good enough to beat the computer now. People are good enough now to always draw, but still have a harder time to win because you have to take a risk to win and it is much more likely the human will make a major tactical mistake and lose to a computer.

13. Why can't the computer simply calculate the win? There are too many possibilities. The computer has to make assumptions in its tree analysis. It does not know what will be played in the future.

14. Why can't you just memorize all the best games played? Some people and programs do this, but soon the game goes into new unexplored territory.

15. What are some weaknesses of Stockfish? First, it almost always trades to simplify. It has a draw bias. Second, It gives up pawns too freely without trying to keep bunches together. Don't give up your pawns so readily. Third, it gives up bishops two freely. If you have both bishops in the end game, it is almost impossible not to at least draw. If you want to beat the computer, you almost always need get it to trade off one of its bishops. Two bishops will prevent your king from attacking. It also seems to prefer bishops to knights, but often a night can be more advantageous, as when there are 5 o 6 pawns on the board. The bishop is better if there are one or two pawns left. Automatically trading pieces without taking this into account is like playing without strategy. It also likes to castle, but when queens and rooks are traded early, this can be a disadvantage. Your king is better in the center in an end game. Since Stockfish is so good at tactics, piece sacrifices rarely work. Try to keep at least two and three pawns on the sides of the board.

16. Should I always take the computer suggested move? You will always draw if you do this. A wasted past-time. Winning requires a little original thinking. Deep strategic thinking.

17. Why does AlphaZero usually beat Stockfish. I think it is because AlphaZero plays original openings and is as good if not better at calculating. I think it plays more like a human would, a really great master. Or maybe they have programmed it to take advantage of Stockfish's weaknesses.

18. Would it be possible for people to beat AlphaZero? I don't have this program but I believe that people can always learn how to beat the computer.

19. Is there a best opening to play against the computer. Sure, play what AlphaZero does, which is also coincidentally similar to those I have found most successful in my games against Stockfish. But there is no winning opening. Some defenses are weaker than others however. I won more easily when the computer randomly played a weaker defense.

20. What does playing chess do to my brain? Chess has several benefits. It increases concentration. It improves blood flow and can make you brain stronger, actually adding new synaptic connections ,according to my brain researcher customer, especially if you play while growing up. Chess will improve your general intelligence as long as it is not the only thing you do. If you play chess only, your intelligence may peak and you may become a dull person. I would recommend studying math and computer programming as well, as well as reading really good books. Reading difficult books will do the most to develop your mind and personality. Do not eat or listen to music while playing chess as it will distract you or affect your mood and cause you to make mistakes. Only Nakamura can do that. Playing chess by itself will not make you fat because you are burning calories.

21. What can studying AI chess do for the player? This is easy. If you develop your winning ability over chess.com 10 and lichess SF8, then you can play at 2600 GM level. Once you are able to play these programs without hints and at least draw, then you can pretty much do that with most people, save for Magnus Carlsen and Nakamura. I am not at that level yet, but I do see some light at the end of the tunnel. The more you play, the better you get. Here is a game I played against SF10. https://lichess.org/teWsyO34#0 It took a 153 moves to win this. I also had to use my chess.com analyzer because SF10 is very tough to win against. But key moves to win and not draw I figured out for myself. Move 15 analysis shows this game should have been a draw. Not the strongest opening possible for white.